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Light touch, firm impression
Switch from paper systems to IT but keep to the business process script
By: Quocirca
Published: April 2009
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Switch from paper systems to IT but keep to the business process script Mobile technologies have become cheaper to buy and have greater performance, functionality and capacity than ever before. This can encourage over-complicated products to be used for mobile applications. These will have higher direct costs in maintenance, support or training, and higher indirect costs from the unnecessary complexity of the user experience. This is especially noticeable in the automation of simple, traditionally paper-based, processes. Done well, the use of appropriate mobile technology can pay dividends, but beware the pitfalls.

  • Strong processes exist for good reasons—technology must support, not disrupt, them The bureaucracy of paper-based processes is necessary to apply organisational order and control. The security, accuracy and traceability of information captured on paper have to be reproduced and improved by any technology used to digitise any stage of such processes.
  • Process automation should not be accompanied by an increase in complexity Paper-based processes are highly portable. They are often used in challenging environments and frequently have to operate without access to power or data networks. This is a simple concept that can be used by almost anyone, anywhere. By contrast, modern IT can introduce many complexities. As a rule, these should be minimised to keep processes simple.
  • Many working environments are a challenge to the effective use of technology The use of IT has spread from the back office to the sharp end of all business processes: staff based in the field or in direct contact with customers or clients. Even inside business premises, employees are constantly on the move. They rarely work entirely in one location, and are frequently operating in a hazardous or awkward environment for IT. However, they still need immediate access to IT to support their workload.
  • Business processes must balance control with flexibility and can use technology to do this Process-driven organisations consider mobile IT to be vital. Although management and IT staff are generally big users of mobile IT, process-driven organisations are more likely to put it in the hands of frontline staff as well. However, many still want to keep paper-based processes, as they believe that an IT alternative will be expensive, will increase complexity for the user and increase the risk of data being lost or compromised.
  • Training helps, but involving users early and ongoing coaching is valuable too Most organisations offer some training in the use of mobile IT, but often at a technical, functional level, rather than about working methods. Providing operational coaching would make the working process more understandable and straightforward for employees. More importantly, involving users earlier in the identification and selection process helps to better match technology to the needs of business and user alike.
  • The ongoing costs of implementing mobile technologies are often underestimated Most companies surveyed have deployed different types of technology-from laptops and tablet PCs to smartphones and digital pens. However, too few are really aware of the ongoing costs of maintaining and supporting large numbers of mobile devices. Complicated technology deployments often fail in challenging environments. Alongside poor training this can reduce, rather than increase, productivity. Such factors are not always well recognised.


Many businesses throw IT at problems without fully considering the real needs of the business process or the working conditions of the user. As mobile technology is increasingly used to digitise traditional paper-based processes that were effective but limited, care must be taken to keep unnecessary costs down. Making the right decisions early on in the planning process can pay dividends. By keeping complexity down, while retaining the control benefits of a business process, organisations can deploy mobile technology more effectively as well as reduce bottom line costs.

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Published by: IT Analysis Communications Ltd.
T: +44 (0)190 888 0760 | F: +44 (0)190 888 0761